Sports for Life

Two men are working to promote leadership and improve education standards through reintegration of sports into school curriculum.

While the rest of the world continues to mix both sports and education to grow well-rounded individuals, Pakistan continues to lag behind in its attempt to reinvigorate its education system.

Two crusaders by the name of Nawab Ashiq Hussain Qureshi and Amir Bilal have been working together to promote organized sports at school level. Bilal is the founder of an organization called the Sports Development Foundation, and Qureshi, who lives in Lahore and is a member of the Pak Veterans cricket team, founded the organization Sports for Life. Their paths crossed and so far their resolve to promote sports in educational institutions has not wavered.

Their goals are simple to promote leadership and improve education standards through reintegration of sports into the school curriculums. Bilal, an athlete, former Pakistan basketball player and first-class cricketer, has also worked as an advisor and administrator for the Pakistan Cricket Board. His passion for sports led him to study sports management abroad.

“Being an athlete, I always met other athletes who said studies and sports could never be interconnected. It was when I went abroad that I saw how interconnected everything was,” says Bilal.

Going back to the time of the Romans, sports have always been seen as character enhancer. Intellectual pursuits are complemented with sport for the promotion of society across all fields and professions.

Bilal explains, “The first letter written by Chairman Mao in office was about the use of sports to rejuvenate the society and then there was Nelson Mandela who also used sports as a way to reinvigorate a nation.

There has been a great tradition of sports in the British school systems. “When the British arrived in the subcontinent, sports were used to connect community. So when one hears about Aitchison College and St. Anthony’s among other schools where sports were promoted, it doesn’t come as a surprise. Sadly, in public schools, sports never got the same importance in the curriculum,” says Bilal.

In Pakistan, the sports board was established under the Ministry of Education through the Sports Development and Control Ordinance in 1962. In Pakistan, things changed drastically during the times of General Ziaul Haq, he explains.

“Since the policy makers did not understand the value of sport being integrated with education, they made changes in the Ministry of Sports, Education and Culture and created three separate ministries. These separate ministries meant there was no inter-ministry coordination.”

Bilal explains that there are several benefits of education that are overlooked by the majority. “In our country, we have a huge level of primary school dropouts. We fail to highlight that students have less incentive to come to school until education becomes a joyful experience, which comes from sports.”

In terms of academic performance, decades of research has proved that play is crucial in insuring physical, mental and social development. A recent study done in 2007 by Michigan State University, found that children had 10 percent increase in grades in general classes such as math, science, English and social studies.

Moving away from the ‘PT’ master culture that is prevalent in the local schools, Qureshi and Bilal are working to develop sports plans that will be integrated directly into some of the major private school systems. The plan is to enhance sports on the campuses by developing organized roles for students so that they can properly administer sports on each campus. The other focus is to build the capacity of teachers and coaches regarding sports and its relation to education. This process will also include promotion of physical education teachers who have knowledge of sports administration and children psychology.

It is important to realize that sports have always complimented education. Wherever there is education, sports will thrive. Till all stakeholders unite around this banner, educational standards will continue to suffer.

Published in the News on Sunday: Shehr Section

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